The Ape Drape Escape
words: Ian Turley
pics: Chris Saunders
Ladies and Gentlemen, I have to report that there is a band on the loose, in the neighbourhood who have been terrorising concert goers, lassoing them in microphone cables, spilling people’s drinks, using foul language and generally acting like a gang of marauding pirates on shore leave.
This band is The Ape Drape Escape and for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of being dry humped by their lead singer just for being in the front row of one of their gigs, they are one of the most exciting prospects on any gig guide. So tonight we meet them, we want to know: who are they? What do they want? And how long will it be before somebody gets hurt?
I’ll do the introductions, The Ape Drape Escape are Martin (the singer), James and Helen (the guitarists), Chris (the bassist), Rachel (the keyboardist) and Dan (the drummer). Now concentrate because this is where it all gets a little bit confusing: Helen and James are a boyfriend and girlfriend as are Martin and Rachel. Martin is Helen’s little brother. I don’t think Chris and Dan are related or going out but something may have been going on under the table which I missed.
So how did this group of siblings and lovers start a band? James tells me, “Me, Helen and (former drummer) Jim Connolly (BKA Friend Of Batman) got together and decided to go to Yellow Arch studios to have a bit of a jam, we’d been talking about it for ages. Then Martin asked ‘can I come and sing?’” “IT’S NOT TRUE!” interrupts Martin, “He saw me dancing in my room John Travolta style and said ‘That kid’s got hot feet, let’s get him in for some action.’ So I danced for them initially and the verses just came through my feet. Really it was an embodiment of the rhythm process that gave our lyrical style.” James continues regardless of Martin‘s claims, “We jammed, it worked, Martin couldn’t sing but he jumped about a bit.”
Work it did and soon the band were playing gigs and quickly gained a reputation as one of the craziest bands you could possibly see. Martin seemed like the most hyperactive singer the stages of Sheffield had ever seen and his in between song banter of insults and nonsense won over audiences that often stand arms folded at the back of the room.
After a while Jim was replaced on drums by Dan and bassist Amy left, this position was filled by Chris, formerly of The Unfolds.
“I’d heard of them through friends of friends but not actually heard or seen them. After I left The Unfolds I saw a gig and pissed my pants completely and thought ‘Alright, I’ll have a bit of this.’” Rachel was brought in to tinkle the ivories and the six-piece that now surrounds me was completed.
So now you know who they are but what do The Ape drape Escape sound like? “I don’t think that you can compare us to a band,” Martin tells me. “It’s probably best to compare us to the under 16s English netball team. We’re all over the floor but we never win.”
OK, so what bands do they like to listen to? “We all like really different things.” Martin explains, “I’m into hardcore jazz house at the moment. Chinese skiffle was my main influence in ‘97 but I progressed into the house movement. Dan’s into progressive house…” “And jungle” jokes Dan. “And crunk” adds James. Dan suddenly has a flash of inspiration, “MISTEEQ ON ACID! That’s what we sound like.”
You may have noticed that here we have a band who’s tongue is firmly positioned in their cheek, a pleasurable change from many of the bands around today who take themselves far too seriously. For anything you possibly mention The Ape Drape Escape have a host of quick, witty responses up their sleeves, hecklers you have been warned.
So for those of you who haven’t seen the Apes live what should you expect? “It’s an auto-erotic sensation for men, based on the primary fixation of the Oedipal complex.” says Martin. “Dan is the muscle. When women see Dan they just weep.”
James has a more practical description, “We like being loud.”
“And very fast” adds Helen. “It makes you feel all dirty. That’s how you should feel when you come away from one of our gigs.”
“Probably because Martin’s climbed all over you.” Chris points out.
Martin thinks he’s come up with a proper description of their music, “When we started loads of people said that we sounded like the MC5 and The Stooges and stuff but none of us had even heard of them. I think it’s the fact that we all listen to crap and that we can’t play that makes us sound like The Stooges and The MC5 because they couldn’t play either. I think it’s that or it could be something to do with our poodle hair, it’s one or the other.”
“People suggested Vera Duckworth for years,” points out Rachel. “That’s more right. I like really camp, gay entertainment. People with big hair dos and women that look like they’ve got willies. Drag queens that aren’t in drag.”
As live bands go The Ape Drape Escape are one that you literally can’t take your eyes off. Various members are often in costumes which have recently included Pirate outfits, Nun’s habits, an array of dresses and even a Vegas style Elvis jumpsuit. Singer Martin also seems to have no grasp of the concept of being ‘On Stage’ continuously leaping off the stage, running around the audience, climbing along bars and wrapping up entire audiences in his microphone cable in the process, returning to the stage covered in sweat and blood only to be pinned to the floor by Chris’s crotch.
It’s pretty intense. But can it get more insane or have they reached their limit? Do they have anything else up their sleeves? Dan’s got a few plans, “I’ve just spent three months teaching elephants to tap dance.” That should go down well in small places like the Grapes, that’s not his only plan though, another is “pumping helium up hamsters arses and having them float around.” He could be lying to me here but I can’t be 100% sure.
Martin has more realistic ways of getting the shows even more lively, “I see a lot more choreography coming into the band.” This reminds Dan “I believe Disney have been in touch about Ape Drape On Ice.”
With Martin being such a live wire on (and off stage) at gigs I have heard some people comment that it’s pretty much a one man show. How do they feel about this criticism?
“I agree. That’s how it’s supposed to be though.” beams Martin with pride. “Martin’s a front man though not a singer” points out Helen. “I’m an all round entertainer” boasts Martin, “I can sing too, I’ve got the voice of a cricket. It’s because I’ve got so much style and panache, it’s my natural disposition, I just naturally take the limelight.” “It’s like the whole Iggy Pop and The Stooges thing” continues Helen, “He was the front man and the band are as important but the front man’s going to get the limelight.”
The thing to point out here is that any front man is only ever going to look good when fronting a band that sounds just as good and let me tell you that The Ape Drape Escape make the kind of punk rock music that any two left footed fool could get down to. So how does it feel when someone says something critical of them? Chris is level headed about that sort of situation “Who cares what they’re saying as long as they’re talking about us.”
“It’s way better when someone’s slagging us off.” claims Martin, “If someone’s going ‘You’re really good’ I’m like ‘Yeah, I know.’ If someone’s going ‘Oh your shit’ I’m like ‘Yeah I know.’
So what does the future hold for this ensemble of lunatics I hear you demanding to know? Well they’re teaming up with Champion Kickboxer and Smokers Die Younger to put on a regular night called Electric Blanket at the Blind Institute. James tells us what will be going down, “The first one’s going to be all three bands playing with each other and then they are going to be on a rotating headline and we’re going to choose who’s playing with us. There’s going to be some cool music and hopefully we’ll turn some people on to some good bands. It’s going to be like a party with people feeling a bit less inhibited.”
“Especially if they’re pissed.” interrupts Martin, “We’re planning to make the booze really cheap.”
Should The Ape Drape Escape be allowed near any amount of cheap booze? I doubt it but it does sound like it will be rather good fun. “We want it to be an interactive experience as opposed to gigs where people just stand there and get on with it. We want people to come away smiling….”
“…or crying.” Helen interrupts James mid sentence.
As usual Martin has more disturbing ideas of what he wants to happen, “I want people to come away feeling violated. The bands that we’re doing it with, you’ve got Champion Kickboxer and people are going to go ‘that’s really nice.’ Then you’ve got Smokers Die Younger who’ll start the insult and then we’re going to violate them. We promise on our night to provide all the emotion you can have, from despair to love, to hate, to just plain sex.”
If all this sounds like it could all get a little too much for you you’ll soon be able to listen to the band in the comfort of your own homes via a record that is due to be released by hip Leeds concert promoter GoJohnnyGoGoGoGo.
Martin tells me more, “He’s releasing a limited edition single on pure record” (I think that’s vinyl to me and you) “So people should buy it and if they don’t like it they could use it as a coaster.”
Just because you’re at home doesn’t mean that you’re any safer than those people at Electric Blanket though. “The cool thing is they’re going to be numbered. We’re doing this thing where people send a postcard in with their number on and there will be a draw and we’re going to get a big truck and play outside their house Busted style.”
Nowhere, it seems, is safe. Surrender to The Ape Drape Escape, you’ll love it, trust me.